You have many choices to make during each phase of your ERP implementation. One of the most important choices takes place right at the beginning. Before you dive too far into the process, you’ll need to decide if you want to use a phased approach or go live with everything all at once.

The latter is referred to as a big bang implementation. While it can work well for some organizations, it isn’t always recommended for others.

Today, we’re sharing the differences between this approach and a phased ERP implementation, along with details that can help you decide which route is best for your company.

What is a Big Bang Implementation?

The term “big bang ERP implementation” is used to describe a go-live scenario where a business switches from its existing ERP system to a new solution at a single point in time. This means all the company’s modules and offices go live simultaneously. 

Under what scenarios is this an appropriate tactic? Big bang implementations work best for organizations that only have one or two functional areas that will be using the new software.

Even in these cases, a crashing system would be disastrous, so we always recommend that businesses develop a contingency plan to ensure they can recover their data if worst comes to worst.

In addition, robust ERP system testing and data validation techniques are a must-have with a big bang implementation, as they can help identify and resolve bugs or compatibility issues before go-live.

Despite the risks, the big bang approach does have plenty of benefits. Chiefly, companies that successfully manage a big bang implementation enjoy a quicker and lower-cost process than companies that spread the implementation out over a longer period of time. 

Technology Assessment Case Study

We assessed the organization’s existing systems to determine which should be migrated into a centralized ERP system and which should continue to stand alone as a best of breed.

What is a Phased ERP Implementation?

Does the idea of a big bang make you a little hesitant? If so, you may want to opt for a phased approach, which allows you to achieve the same results at a slower, more deliberate pace.

With a phased ERP implementation, you’ll establish several small go-live dates for each phase of your project, rather than a single date that affects your entire enterprise. For instance, you might go live in your accounting department on one day, and go live with your inventory and warehousing operations on another.

In this way, you’ll replace your older systems gradually, not all at once. You can choose to set these milestones based on variables, such as:

  • Module
  • Business unit
  • Geographic location

Why would companies want to spend the time and money required for a phased implementation? After all, one of the major drawbacks of a phased approach is that it can take a significant amount of time.

The answer lies in improved usability and adoption. One of the greatest benefits of a phased rollout is that it gives your employees more time to learn and adapt to the new ERP software.

For example, if you’re phasing by module, you can stagger end-user training so employees have more time to absorb certain aspects of the system; and if you’re phasing by business unit or geographic location, you can develop a more targeted organizational change management approach.

Ultimately, many organizations choose a phased approach because it allows them to identify and fix smaller, more incremental system issues. This is better than discovering a major issue when you’re already live.

Bridging Old and New ERP Systems

One thing to keep in mind if you’re considering a phased ERP implementation is that you’ll likely need to keep your old and new systems temporarily bridged as you migrate data. This ensures employees have all the data they need to do their job in the meantime. Essentially, the first modules to be implemented may not function optimally without critical information from modules yet to be implemented.

While this step might sound complicated, there are system adjustments that can help establish the bridge and ensure functionality. For instance, your ERP project team may choose to create specialized interfaces to create the connection. These teams can also put standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to define how business processes will operate during the interim.

Combining Big Bang and Phased Approaches

Looking for an approach that allows you to achieve the best of both worlds? You can combine these two implementation styles, rather than seeing the choice as an “either-or” scenario. One popular method is to use a big bang implementation for smaller business units and transition into a phased implementation approach for larger business units.

Choosing the Right ERP Implementation Method

If you’re in the pre-implementation phase of your project and you’re trying to decide between a big bang implementation and a phased implementation, it helps to understand your unique business needs. What works for one company might not work for others.

If you have multiple sites or business units, a phased implementation is usually the most practical. However, if you’re at the helm of a smaller organization and are willing to assume the risk of a big bang approach, you may be able to enjoy a faster and more cost-effective project.

Looking for guidance as you make this decision? Our ERP consultants can help you determine an implementation approach that aligns with your digital strategy. Request a free consultation below.

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